My Southbound Story: Student Rabbi Rob

As we prepare to welcome more than a half-dozen new Jewish professionals to Mississippi for internships and fellowships at the ISJL, we’ve asked a few of them to share their thoughts on heading South. The third piece in this series comes from Rob Friedman, a student rabbi serving in our Rabbinic Services Department. He’s hit the ground running this summer, and has already visited several communities! 

When I landed in Jackson, Mississippi, earlier this month, I was flooded with a wave of nostalgia and déjà vu, excited beyond belief to begin my internship back in my deep Southern home.

You see, this isn’t my first stint in the South. Back in June 2010, I left my home in Cincinnati, Ohio, to travel to Jackson, Mississippi, so that I could serve as the Museum Intern for an organization I knew only a little about – the Institute of Southern Jewish Life. Motivated by a desire to gain experience as a historian and archivist, and introduced to the organization by former ISJL Director of Rabbinic Services Rabbi Marshal Klaven, I had no idea back then how strong an impact that summer would have on me. Now, six years later, I have the great privilege to return to the ISJL as the summer’s Rabbinic Intern, and I could not be more excited.

By the end of that first summer, I had fallen in love with the organization’s staff and the dedication they have to fulfilling the mission of the organization. Everywhere I have gone over the past six years, I have found myself praising the organization over and over. When I made the decision three years ago to apply to rabbinical school, I did so with the memory of the ISJL strong in my mind, recounting all of the amazing work they do to bring Judaism to small and often under-served communities in the American South. In fact, it is in large part due to the ISJL that I want my future rabbinic career to focus on smaller and under-served congregations like those I’ll be working with this summer. Tasked with serving communities large and small, the ISJL must be innovative and adaptable, and I think these skills are necessary no matter where a congregation is. It is for those reasons that I eagerly applied to be the rabbinic intern, and why I am so happy to have been accepted.

As this summer commences, it is my hope to meet as many people as I can and to learn with and from each and every person I meet, as well as the ISJL staff. I’ve already been on the road visiting communities, and I can’t wait to continue hitting the highway and connecting with congregants across the South.

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